Obituary: IAHR Honorary Member Prof. Guifen Li (1931-2020)

Guifen Li -w300.jpg

IAHR Honorary Member Prof. Guifen Li passed away on January 5, 2020 at the age of 89.

Prof. Guifen Li was elected as a member of the IAHR Council for the period of 2001-2005, and before that served in two Executive Committees for the Technical Committee on Ice Research and Engineering (1996-2001) and the Technical Committee on Hydraulic Structures (1997-2003). She was elected Honorary Member in 2007.

Professor and senior engineer, Mrs. Guifen Li graduated from Shandong University, China in 1952. After graduation, Prof. Li joined the Huaihe River Conservancy Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources, China. From 1956, she spent two years as a visiting scholar in the Department of Hydraulics of VNIIG, Leningrad, U.S.S.R., following which she joined the Institute of water Conservancy and Hydropower Research, which is now known as the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (IWHR), and later became the Director of the Departments of Hydraulics and Division of International Cooperation. Since 1958, she had been engaged in scientific and technical research on hydraulics in the fields of water resources and hydropower. Her research topics covered a wide range, including structural hydraulics, high speed flow, flood discharging and dam safety, new types of energy dissipater, prototype measurements, wind-induced waves in reservoirs, river ice, effects of plant-barriers on debris flow, etc. She published 30 odd scientific papers and 8 monograph books, as well as hundreds of reports, among which the book entitled “Flood Releasing Structures in High Dams with High Discharge” (in Chinese) has provided a valuable reference for designers and researchers in China.

Prof. Guifen Li had also acted as consultant for many water engineering projects in terms of planning, assessment, laboratories building, and capacity building. Due to her excellent works and achievements, Prof. Li had received many awards at national and at ministerial levels. Prof. Li was also a visiting professor of Sichuan University and Shandong University, an adviser for the State Key Laboratory of High Speed Flows in Sichuan University and to various huge hydraulic projects. For the last two decades, Prof. Li had been very active as a member of Council of the Chinese Hydraulic Engineering Society (CHES) and of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering (CSHE).

Prof. Guifen Li had actively devoted herself to communication and exchange of water science between Chinese and international groups since the beginning of the 1980s. She had been actively involved in IAHR activities since the XXII Congress in 1987 (Lausanne, Switzerland). Owing to her introductions, dozens of Chinese hydraulic scholars and experts joined IAHR. She was Chairperson of the IAHR National Committee of China from 1987-2005. In 1988 she organized the first international symposium on hydraulics in China. Since then she and her Chinese colleagues had organized more than 10 conferences and symposiums, including the 7th IAHR-APD Congress (1990, Beijing, China), the 13th IAHR Ice Engineering Symposium (1996, Beijing, China), and was Chairperson for the highly successful 29th IAHR Congress in Beijing, 2001. She also had led many delegations to attend IAHR congresses and symposiums outside of China. Prof. Li had always encouraged young scholars to participate in IAHR academic activities.

Prof. Guifen Li will be always in our hearts.




I am very much saddened to learn of the passing of Prof Guifen Li - a leader who has made many contributions to IAHR and the international water engineering community.  In addition to her outstanding contributions to hydraulic research and practice, Madame Li has been a quiet and important guiding force in international collaboration over the past three decades.  She has a keen interest in the professional development of younger colleagues and often encouraged them to participate in IAHR committees. She supported many conferences organized by APD researchers and provided many opportunities for us to experience the excitement of water.  In September 2007 she helped organise a one-week field trip for IAHR-Hong Kong Chapter to visit Xinjiang – it was an eye-opening experience for urbanites from Hong Kong and we shared some good memories together.  These were good old times.

---- Joseph Hun-wei Lee, President of IAHR

JLEE 1.jpgJLEE 2.jpgIAHR-Hong Kong with Prof Li Guifen and Wang Lianxiang, September 2007 in Tianchi, Xinjiang


Professor Li Guifen will be missed greatly by IAHR.  Professor Li will be remembered not just for her research contributions but as an empathetic person who made international visitors feel welcome and connected researchers - particularly students and early career researchers across the globe.  She did much to foster international networks and our community has lost a warm and wonderful ambassador.  

---- Peter Goodwin, Past President of IAHR, President of University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science


Professor Li was on the IAHR Council when I first joined the Council. It is always sad when a distinguished member of our IAHR family passes away.

---- Roger Falconer, Past President of IAHR


I am also extremely sad to learn the news of the passing away of a colleague and a friend Mme Prof Li Giufen I had the privilege of numerous interactions with her on different professional activities. She was very dedicated to the growth of our Association. The IAHR has lost an invaluable honorary member and a mentor to numerous younger scientists.

---- Etienne Mansard, Past President of IAHR


I join the feeling for the loss of Mme Prof. Li Giufen, who was a prominent and active member of our association.

---- Ramón M. Gutiérrez Serret, IAHR Secretary General


It is very sad to hear the passing away of Prof. Guifen Li. Prof. Li was my advisor and good friend. I shall never forget her thoughtful comments and her gentle behavior. Prof. Li made great efforts in the development of hydraulic engineering in China and development of IAHR, especially the IAHR China Chapter. May she rest in peace.

---- Zhaoyin Wang, Past Vice President of IAHR


A very sad day indeed to read about the unexpected demise of Madame Prof. Li Guifen. A devoted hydraulic engineer passed away. In the nineties and zeros I frequently visited China and passed often many hours and days in the pleasant surroundings of madame Li, prof. Wang Lian Xiang and prof. Bingnan Lin. They were excellent hosts and I learned a lot from them. I will remember her dearly. 

---- Henk Jan Overbeek, IAHR Honorary Member


It is with deep sadness we note the loss of one of our great colleagues, Prof Guifen Li. Prof Li has been part of the IAHR family for long, serving the IAHR Community in numerous ways, Member of the IAHR Council, Chairing many a committees, organizing many conferences including the IAHR APD Congress. A very strong pillar in our water community has temporarily rested. May her Soul rest with God. With deep sadness.

---- Dr. Gregory Shahane De Costa, President of IAHR APD


The news Prof. Li Guifen passed away made me fallen in a deep sorrow. I will always remember that li-gong, as we called her in Chinese, led us to actively participate in so many activities of IAHR congresses and symposiums. She was always instructive to young engineers and scholars, friendly to our colleagues from abroad, gentle to partners from home and abroad, helpful to all the visitors. Whoever had a chance to work with Prof. Li would remember her attitude, and would bring kindness back to her at any chance of meeting her. l believe Prof. Li had made a great contribution to the IAHR community. May I say that there is certainly a seat in the haven for our respectable Prof. Li Guifen! In our Chinese way, be smoothly on the way towards the west haven!

---- Prof. Lianxiang Wang, Past Secretary of IAHR APD


With deep sadness we note that Prof. Li Guifen, a distinguished and devoted member of the IAHR family over several decades, has passed away. With Prof. Li Guifen we have lost a highly esteemed researcher with a leading role in promoting international cooperation, international student exchange and the development of the IAHR China chapter in its global role. I highly appreciate her efforts since the 1980´s on many occasions, which have had significant impacts on the development of IAHR. We will keep her in thankful memory.

---- Prof. Helmut Kobus, Past President of IAHR


I am deeply sad to hear that Prof. Li Guifen passed away.

The LOC of the 25th World Congress of IAHR in Tokyo in 1993 organized a pre-congress symposium on “Present Status of the Research in the Reduction of Water Related Disasters” to urge young professionals to pay more attention to International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction which started in 1990. Prof. Li kindly accepted to be one of speakers.

In the 29th World Congress of IAHR in Beijing in 2001 Prof. Li organized a memorial symposium on “Pioneers of Modern Hydraulic Engineering in Asia”. I was asked to present a paper on Dr. Mononobe as a pioneer in Japan. We agreed that “It is quite important for young professionals to understand historical background of modern hydraulic engineering in Asia.” Through these two examples I really understood distinguished contribution of Prof. Li to IAHR and China Chapter especially for next generation. May she rest in quiet smile.

---- Dr. Nobuyuki Tamai, Past President of IAHR

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